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What 4D Systems is Really Missing...

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  • Phrazemaster
    James, thanks for your kind response. Please know my comments in no way are meant disparagingly; I love your products.

    As you have stated, each product has multiple docs per product. That's the issue itself. It's not so much that it's hard to find the docs for product, but A) Many, many, many searches per product must be done to obtain the totality of the information per product, necessitating downloading umpteen different docs - which takes time, is aggravating, forcing the user to create a folder to house all the disparate pieces of information, and also catalog them/title them for later reference; B) the docs are not compiled with a master table of contents encompassing all docs, so a user is forced to read through each one, only to discover notes such as "This application note assumes prior familiarity with setting up the Arduino for the Serial environment; see this other doc." While the cross-referencing is welcome, what is still missing is cohesiveness.

    There are lots and lots of little docs for each nuance and functionally, forcing new users to face a bewildering array of notes that he/she must then assimilate and digest as a whole, in order to proceed. It makes the learning curve a lot higher than it need be.

    Don't get me wrong; each note is well-done, and even beautiful with nice and clear graphics. But the notes should be complied into actual manuals to facilitate ease of use. What you have is great for one-off searches for this or that, but terrible for really understanding the whole. You wouldn't ask someone to read a dictionary to understand English.

    You can keep all the notes as-is, for they are very well done, but then they should be assimilated into cohesive comprehensive manuals for each product that cover, A-Z, all functionality.

    Perhaps this is asking too much. As you stated, your engineers are busily adding new features, and are doing a heck of a job of documenting what they are doing. Perhaps it's a matter of resources. But this all needs to go beyond "notes" and "documentation" to clear manuals for your end users. At least, that would be my wish.

    Or maybe you contract with a 3rd party to produce manuals for you, and you can sell those on your site. They would sell like hotcakes I'm sure. I would be willing to pay for it myself.

    Additionally, you would find a considerable reduction in "stupid questions" on your forums, actually making your life easier. Then instead of going through and explaining everything, or having to refer the poster to other posts wherein his/her issue is already explained, you can post a sticky at the top of each forum with a link to the manual.

    Thanks for your kind consideration, and whatever the result, I am indeed still very pleased with the excessive high quality of your products and your attention to detail.


    Last edited by Phrazemaster; 18 February 2016, 06:06 PM.

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  • James_4DSystems
    Hi Mike

    Thanks for the feedback, its always welcome as we are trying to continuously improve.

    Ill try and answer your points you have raised, and at the same time ask some more questions so its clearer what you are requiring.

    Regarding your comment about chaotic information and how its hard to find, can you provide a bit of an example?
    Obviously working for 4D, I know where things are, so it is important to hear things like this from customers, as if there is a problem then its something we are not aware of, otherwise we would already be sorting it out.

    So inside Workshop4 we have all our products, and then when you select the product you have, you select which environment you want to work on. Im certain this bit is obvious.
    So based on the fact there are 4 environments, there are 4 different sets of documents. This may be where some confusion is, I am not sure. I would love to hear more from you.
    So our current website is quite limited for what it can do, and how easy it is to change things (or hard in this case). We have a whole new system on the last part of development at the moment, so an all new website will be coming soon.
    Currently all the main documentation for the environments, is found on the Workshop4 Product Page, as they are all documents relating to the IDE. We havent put them all on each products page, as there are so many, but there is a link on each product page to go to the documentation, which links you to the downloads page of the Workshop4 product page. All the main documents are also loaded into Workshop4, so if you press F1 on a function, or in an environment in WS4, it will open up the relevant document for you.

    Can you explain if this is news you weren't aware of, or if you already knew about the Workshop4 page and the documents being there, along with the WS4 IDE built in docs?

    Next is App Notes. These have been building up weekly, as we have a small team of engineers busily making App Notes and publishing them. You mentioned you didn't have a problem with these, which is great. There are also Codebase examples, which are found at the bottom of the forum main page, which have code examples with a bit of a blurb about what they do, along with a basic video to show it working, without having to make a full App Note document to detail something.

    You talk about wanting us to combine documents together. What documents are you referring to?
    We have docs for Designer, for ViSi, for ViSi-Genie and for Serial. We then have docs for each type of Processor, and then we have docs for each type of Display Module. So none of these can really be combined, as they are not related to each other. If you are meaning something else, please do share what you mean.

    Please detail what exactly you are struggling with. What docs you want joined together, or what docs you seem to be missing, and we will try to either explain more, or agree with you and just get new documents written - scheduled work of course.

    I can imagine that our products can be seen as complex fromt he onset, but really its one set of products that can be configured 4+ ways each, and each way requires explaining, and its not always appropriate to make a 500 page document, when a few smaller documents works better. That said, you are obviously having trouble either finding what you need, or not understanding what you need to understand. I know exactly what you mean by you dont know what you dont know, and how hard it is to find something when you dont really know what you are looking for.

    Examples would be great.
    I look forward to your reply

    What display do you have?
    What environment are you looking at, at the moment?
    What are you trying to achieve?
    Do you have a host, or are you doing a purely display module only project?


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  • James_4DSystems
    Hello Mike

    I have moved your topic here, its more appropriate.
    I will reply to you shortly.


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  • Phrazemaster
    started a topic What 4D Systems is Really Missing...

    What 4D Systems is Really Missing...

    Hello, I'm not sure where to put this feedback, as I cannot find a feedback link on the main site.

    As a novice programmer, and beginner to 4D Systems, I'm impressed with the depth and breadth of the functionality of your offerings. I'm also impressed at the extensive documentation and notes system you have set up.

    I am not, however, impressed with the absolutely chaotic nature of how to find relevant information without resorting to dozens and dozens of searches. And without knowing what I don't know, it makes it a daunting prospect to wend my way through all of the immense small application notes per product. It seems you have hundreds to thousands of little "mini-manuals" for everything, but no actual all-encompassing manuals for each product.

    This is confusing.

    REALLY confusing.

    The information should be all put together in one place for each product. It would not be a huge undertaking to compile your application notes into manuals, and flesh them out. You already have folks documenting things; it's time to have them coordinate. Having to wend through all those searches, and reassemble the info, when a person doesn't know what they don't know, is really horrendous.

    In another example, I was considering purchasing your Workshop4 Pro license. I cannot for the life of me find a simple clear comparison between the two versions. I found some random forum posts, but no simple clear table showing the differences. People want to know exactly what they are buying, and what they are paying for; this is a necessity. How many sales are you losing because people don't realize they need this product?

    I love the display I purchased for you. I knew going in this wasn't going to be easy for me to figure it out, even though I do teach computer programming myself. I was right. But it shouldn't be this hard - I'm asking you to consider making an effort to put all your documentation together in coherent manuals for each product to really support your customers in a first-class fashion. You can keep the application notes as-is, as they are still useful for targeted searches on specific exact topics.